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By Andy Argyrakis
Brian SetzerWeekend Report: Christmas concerts can be cool
Friday, December 7, 2007
The closer it gets to Christmas, even fewer cool concert options exist, especially those that merge the spirit of the season with discerning taste. Thankfully the Stray Cats front man turned swing star continues leading the pack for left of center celebrators as he's currently in the midst of his sixth annual Yuletide soiree. Outside of cherry picking tunes from the band and individual catalogues (which include everything from "Stray Cat Strut" to "Rock This Town" and "Jump Jive An' Wail"), expect seasonal selections translated to rockabilly and swing status. This weekend's dates include tonight's stop at Detroit's newly named Fillmore, Saturday's visit to Petoskey, Michigan at the Odawa Casino Resort, then Sunday's visit to Aurora, Illinois' Paramount Theatre.

Fellow 80s upstart turned solo indie hero Aimee Mann dropped One More Drifter In the Snow (SuperEgo) in 2006 and is also in the middle of her second annual winter bash. She'll also bring several presents to fans in the form of rotating guest stars, including Nellie McKay, Ben Lee, Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie), Patrick Park, Sean Hayes, Chuck Prophet, Josh Ritter,No Doubt Joe Henry, Grant Lee Phillips, Morgan Murphy and members of the Decemberists. Tonight at the Wheeler Opera House in Aspen, Colorado and Saturday in the same State's Boulder Theatre, expect to catch Mann alongside host Paul F. Tompkins, plus McKay, Park and Murphy.

For those who'd rather kick back and watch holiday tunes translated to the TV screen, the DVD release A Very Special Christmas: 20th Anniversary Music Video Collection (Universal) could serve as a suitable substitute. The project uncovers relatively rare footage of classic and current rockers performing suitable songs for the season. Highlights include U2's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Here)," No Doubt's every so slight word play during "Oi To The World," John Mellencamp's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," Eric Clapton's "Christmas Tears" and the Stevie Wonder/Wyclef Jean collaboration "Merry Christmas Baby."
The Gutter TwinsBerner's soundtrack slot, Noise Pop planned
Thursday, December 6, 2007
The dates for next year's Noise Pop Festival are set to span February 26-March 2, winding throughout some of San Francisco's most lauded venues. Rather than the more industry minded SxSW or CMJ Music Marathon, the event bills itself as a fan oriented experience, all tied around the indie rock theme. The bill thus far includes underground heroes such as Magnetic Fields, The Mountain Goats, The Gutter Twins, Cursive, Kelly Stoltz, Tilly & The Wall, Capgun Coup, Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes and Fu Manchu (though the cemented roster will feature over 100 acts).

Machine Records troubadour Martha Berner just scored a soundtrack slot in the new indie film "Divine Unrest," which highlights her self-penned track "Down and Out in San Francisco."Martha Berner The tune was originally found on her Ten Tiny Little Pieces EP, though the troubadour also promises a new full-length record is around the corner. She's currently balancing spot tour dates with a trip to Thailand, where she'll continue writing and demoing new tunes for a summer 2008 release.

Remember reading about the newly rescheduled dates for Regina Spektor's illness stricken tour? Well what appeared to be a short spell of vertigo turned into a much longer recovery process, forcing the singer/songwriter/pianist to sit on the sidelines until the doctor tells her otherwise. Her website released the following statement in relation to the ongoing episode: "Regina Spektor re-scheduled four shows at the tail end of her North American tour after collapsing on stage during soundcheck at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, TN on November 14th...With great sadness, Regina has no choice but to further postpone her re-scheduled dates in Atlanta (December 5), Nashville (December 6), Norfolk, Va. ( December 8) and Richmond, Va. (December 10)."
InterpolInterpol's indie exclusive, Double dose of solo
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Brooding New York rockers Interpol may have signed with Capitol for its latest CD, but members haven't forgotten their underground roots. In fact, the band is operating outside the major label structure for Interpol Live which just hit and like-minded physical stores. The six track CD marks the group's first ever concert collection and it will feature older tracks ("Stella Was a Diver And She Was Always Down," "Obstacle 1") mixed with newer tunes (including "The Heinrich Maneuver" and "Pioneer to The Falls"). The set was recorded at the Astoria club in London on July 2, 2007 and will be followed up on the road in early 2008 (stating with Australia and New Zealand in February, then South America in March).

After co-founding and producing tunes for A Perfect Circle, guitar/singer/songwriter Billy Howerdel is stepping into a new role fronting Ashes Divide. The alternative rock newcomers just signed with Island Records, helmed by famed producer Antonio "L.A." Reid, and are slated to release a record in March. Though specific stylistic details about the disc have yet to be unveiled, A Perfect
CircleHowerdel produced and engineered the new tunes, while also playing guitar, bass and keyboard. He was joined on drums by APC's Josh Freese with mixing by Alan Moulder (Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, The Killers).

While The Fixx continues coasting on the greatest hits touring circuit, front man Cy Curnin recently stepped aside for his second solo CD The Returning Sun. "Having gone through a second divorce, there was a lot of personal stuff coming out in my music that I felt didn't quite suit the band mode," he says of the fresh material. "The band is a club of gentlemen who don't need to hear me prattling on about my insecurities." The self-released effort comes on the heels of his 50th birthday, which was celebrated by climbing Mount Everest with several other retro rock n' rollers (including members of Squeeze, The Alarm and Stray Cats) to raise awareness for leukemia research.
Rufus WainwrightStreet Date: Drake box, Rufus does Judy
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
In one of the more unusual releases of the past year, flamboyant troubadour Rufus Wainwright turns to one of his musical heroes in tribute. Not only does he cover Judy Garland's classic cannon on his latest CD and DVD release Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall (Geffen), but he recreates that legendary concert note for note and word for word. The live concert re-visitation took place on June 14, 2006, commemorating the forth-fifth anniversary of the late great's performance at the same venue. Aside from his theatrical presence, Wainwright's voice soars on standards like "Come Rain Or Come Shine," "That's Entertainment" and "Over the Rainbow."

Another tribute to a departed legend comes via the box set Fruit Tree (Fontana/Island), tracing the lineage of timeless tunesmith Nick Drake. The retrospective is packaged with three complete albums (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later and Pink Moon), plus a DVD ofNick Drake a BBC special and extensive linear notes. Though a bit pricey at an average of $55- especially for those who already own all three CDs- there's no denying his songwriting brilliance or the fascinating documentary account of the man behind the music.

After ruling the festival circuit this summer, Daft Punk finally drops the concert bi-product Alive 2007 (Virgin). Despite the audio experience lacking the band's visual appeal, it's impossible not to groove to the band's clever combination of Kraftwerk and the Chemical Brothers. Expect the obligatory club staples "One More Time" and "Robot Rock," plus the lead single "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," which also appears in sample format on Kanye West's recent "Stronger." The recording was culled from the duo's first homecoming concert in ten years, staged at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy this summer.
EditorsEditors' triple team, Jermaine says "yes" to J5
Monday, December 3, 2007
English indie rockers Editors continue its Stateside conquest at the top of 2008, bringing along Hot Hot Heat and Louis XIV for the ride. Earlier in 07, the band dropped An End Has a Start continuing to merge its brooding alt-rock sounds with remnants of Joy Division and The Smiths. The openers have also visited the studio as of late, with dance rockers Hot Hot Heat's recent Happiness Ltd. taking a more radio ready approach, while Louis XIV returns to retro bombast on a forthcoming release. The tour kicks off January 8 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and winds into late February (followed by an extensive U.K. and European run).

Though plans for The Jacksons' rumored reunion might not be nearly as concrete, brother Jermaine hints that an itinerary isn't all that far away. Of course, the troupe's been plagued with setbacks for years- including Michael's ongoing legal issues- though a reunion would certainly improve his tarnished reputation. And according to Jermaine during an interview with BBC 6Music, the gloved one is ready, willing and able.The Jacksons "He has to be, he is a Jackson. He was at the meetings. Michael will be involved." In the meantime, Jacko graces the cover of December's Ebony, looking remarkably normal (at least for his standards), while ditching tabloid trash in favor of the twenty-fifth Thriller anniversary.

As if this summer's Projekt Revolution jaunt wasn't exhaustive enough for Linkin Park, the electronic/alternative rockers are loading up the buses once again. After a recent sold out show in China, the band plotted an extensive American run in support of Minutes To Midnight, kicking off February 12 in Omaha, Nebraska and wrapping up March 8 in West Valley City, Utah. The prog-influenced intensity of Coheed and Cambria opens up all dates.

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